Ukraine: "there will be blood on the streets"
Does Ukraine?s destiny lie with Tatyana, a 29-year-old blue-eyed blonde draped in an orange poncho, who five days ago left her job as a hotel receptionist to take to the streets? ?This is our chance to shape our future,? she said.
Focus: Talking about a revolution
For seven days thousands of young people have partied in the streets of Kiev, hoping to turn their country towards the West. It?s an incredible display of people power, reports Mark Franchetti, but behind the scenes government forces are now massing
Draped in a blue pro-government flag and swigging from a vodka bottle to keep warm, Viktor Kolukh was in no mood to compromise yesterday. A hefty miner with thick, tattooed hands, he had travelled 600 miles by bus from Ukraine?s heavily industrialised east with an unmistakable message for the opposition demonstrators on the streets of Kiev.
Cheered on by dozens of fellow miners gathered around a camp fire, Kolukh spat contemptuously on an orange opposition banner and trod it deep into the snow.
?We want to avoid violence but the situation is very tense. It could blow up any moment,? said Kolukh, 34. ?The opposition must accept that it lost the elections. We are patient but if the results are annulled and we are robbed of our victory, there will be blood on the streets.?
While television cameras have focused on the carnival-like sea of hundreds of thousands of orange-clad protesters in the Ukrainian capital, the blue army of men like Kolukh has been steadily on the march, pouring in by bus and train from the east.
These mostly impoverished miners and industrial workers voted in Ukraine?s disputed presidential election for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian prime minister who is fighting to hold on to a victory widely condemned as rigged.
Some 20,000 cheered Yanukovych as he called on them to do all in their power to stop a constitutional coup ? raising fears, as the standoff entered its seventh day, that the remarkably festive mood in this ancient city could turn violent, with repercussions far beyond Ukraine?s borders.
Tomorrow, if it is not overtaken by events this weekend, the Ukrainian Supreme Court is due to hear evidence about the vote-rigging and decide whether the result should stand.
The opposition wants another election. Kolukh and his friends are ready to fight: ?If the courts rule against Yanukovych we will not accept it. He won the elections and is our president. If he is not sworn in, anything could happen. We won?t go home empty-handed.?
Is he right? Or does Ukraine?s destiny lie with Tatyana, a 29-year-old blue-eyed blonde draped in an orange poncho, who five days ago left her job as a hotel receptionist to take to the streets? ?This is our chance to shape our future,? she said.<b> ?We are not violent. We have been out for days without causing a single violent incident. We want to achieve our goals by peaceful means but we will stand firm to the end. It?s a wonderful feeling. We are changing our country and turning our back on our authoritarian past.? </b>
In what is now being dubbed the Chestnut Revolution, because of Kiev?s numerous chestnut trees, the number of young protesters in Independence Square grew yesterday, beating drums and dancing, waving orange flags as they surrounded the presidential palace and government buildings. Pretty young women smiled at heavily armed riot police and placed flowers in their shields and gun barrels.
EUROPE has seen nothing as joyous as Ukraine?s popular revolt since 1989 when the fall of the Berlin Wall set pro-Moscow regimes toppling all across the old communist bloc. More than a decade on, Kiev is reliving the same romantic scenes, the same sense of history on the move as exuberant pro-western crowds brave heavy snow and bitter winds to defy the dead hand of the apparat.
Ukraine, however, is different. It is not an outlying colony of the Soviet bloc but an integral part of the Russian soul, its eastern region ruled from Moscow since the 17th century. Its relationship to Russia is roughly analogous with Scotland?s to England. It has supplied Moscow with political leaders, soldiers, engineers, inventors, artists, writers ? plus food, fuel, holiday homes for the Russian elite and a base for Moscow?s nuclear submarine fleet, which Russia still uses.
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